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Old 04-04-2021, 01:23 PM   #1
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Seeking answers about "a variation" on Kung Pao

I was introduced to "Kung Pao" (chicken) at a local restaurant. It had chicken, chilis, peanuts, scallions, and a spicy-and-slightly-sweet red sauce. Nothing else. Living in a large, metropolitan area, I have only found three restaurants that prepare Kung Pao in this manner. All three have "Mandarin" in their names. Unfortunately, two have closed (both were long-time establishments that retired and sold off).

All of the other places tend to include "other vegetables" (e.g., zucchini, water chestnuts, mushrooms, etc.) into their preparation, and tend towards a "brown sauce" vice the red sauce I was first introduced to.

One restaurant explained that the "simpler version" (i.e., without all the extra vegetables) is "Chinese style". In fact, this restaurant has two offerings of Kung Pao, and one is, indeed, described as "Chinese style".

Another restaurant explained that the sauce I was describing is really a spicier version of "Cashew Chicken". I tried a spiced-up version of their Cashew Chicken, and it was "close", but not "the same".

Can anyone tell me what "the real answer" is? Is the version with the "red sauce" a Mandarin take on Kung Pao? Szechuan? Not really Kung Pao? At this point, I am looking at the very real possibility that, living in a large metropolitan area, I may have to give up on finding another "go to" for Kung Pao.

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Old 04-04-2021, 07:18 PM   #2
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I wish I had an answer, but I don't. I am sure someone will know though. In the meantime, welcome to DC!
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Old 04-04-2021, 07:24 PM   #3
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Welcome to Discuss Cooking, kung pao seeker.
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Old 04-04-2021, 08:33 PM   #4
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Welcome to the forum!

I might not be able to tell you that flavor you are looking for, but here's an idea - something that would not only give it a unique flavor, but that red color: Chinese red rice vinegar. Way back, when I was experimenting with every Chinese ingredient that I could get my hands on, I found this, as well as other rice vinegars, and discovered that flavor, that I would taste in few restaurants, but occasionally I would find it in a really good Chinese restaurant. However, IMO the red vinegars I tried weren't as good as the pure white rice vinegar, or the black Chenkiang vinegar - the two rice vinegars I always have on hand. The red vinegars were diluted, I found out from the ingredient list. The Chenkiang vinegar is also a flavor in the best hot and sour soups.
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Old 04-04-2021, 09:13 PM   #5
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I live in Vancouver, BC, which is a mecca for anyone who's looking for Asian cuisine.


Kung Pao Chicken, aka Gong Bao chicken, is sichuan, one of the northern provinces. It's characterized by sichuan peppercorns, sichuan chilies (I substitute Tien Tien or Facing Heaven chilis), peanuts, chicken and as @pepperhead212 observed, Chienkiang black vinegar, soy sauce, etc. Traditionally, the only veg are garlic, ginger,green onions, and sometimes Chinese leeks (which I use a lot, they're really good).

Here's a recipe from sichuan expert Fushia Dunlop -- https://wildchina.com/2015/09/fuchsi...hicken-recipe/
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Old 04-05-2021, 12:28 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kung pao seeker View Post
I was introduced to "Kung Pao" (chicken) at a local restaurant. It had chicken, chilis, peanuts, scallions, and a spicy-and-slightly-sweet red sauce. Nothing else. Living in a large, metropolitan area, I have only found three restaurants that prepare Kung Pao in this manner. All three have "Mandarin" in their names. Unfortunately, two have closed (both were long-time establishments that retired and sold off).

All of the other places tend to include "other vegetables" (e.g., zucchini, water chestnuts, mushrooms, etc.) into their preparation, and tend towards a "brown sauce" vice the red sauce I was first introduced to.

One restaurant explained that the "simpler version" (i.e., without all the extra vegetables) is "Chinese style". In fact, this restaurant has two offerings of Kung Pao, and one is, indeed, described as "Chinese style".

Another restaurant explained that the sauce I was describing is really a spicier version of "Cashew Chicken". I tried a spiced-up version of their Cashew Chicken, and it was "close", but not "the same".

Can anyone tell me what "the real answer" is? Is the version with the "red sauce" a Mandarin take on Kung Pao? Szechuan? Not really Kung Pao? At this point, I am looking at the very real possibility that, living in a large metropolitan area, I may have to give up on finding another "go to" for Kung Pao.

The real answer is that “real” Kung Pao style is Sichuan includes just peanuts, chili’s and green onions. Sometimes celery. The sauce is spicy and brown, not red or even a little bit sweet.

Chinese restaurants often invent their own variations depending on what their customers want.

Fuscia Dunlop is a renowned expert in all types of Chinese food. Here is her recipe:

http://www.fuchsiadunlop.com/cooking/
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Old 04-05-2021, 01:11 PM   #7
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuchsia_Dunlop
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Old 04-06-2021, 07:54 PM   #8
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Have not gone to any of the suggested sites, that being said, it has always been my understanding that any Chinese (or Asian for that matter) is strictly dependent on the area and the cook. Two cooks on the same street will produce the same dish and be different.

That goes for almost any ethnic dish, including our own Canadian 'Tourtiere'.

So all you can really do is try as many as you can and find the one that most closely resembles the dish you first liked.

LOL "Mission Impossible" And Welcome "KP seeker"
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Old 04-06-2021, 08:58 PM   #9
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This is my recipe for Kung Pao Chicken, gleaned from several Sichuan style restaurants in San Francisco's Chinatown. I call it Kung Fu chicken because I kill the chicken with my bare hands.

Kung Pao Chicken
Ingredients:

2 Tbs peanut oil
4 dried red chiles, cracked
1 Tbs garlic, minced
½ Tbs grated ginger
1 tsp pepper
1 red bell pepper, cut in strips
1½ lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts/thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces*
1 Tbs cornstarch, dissolved in 4 Tbs water
⅓ cup unsalted, dry roasted peanuts for garnish
2 scallions, thinly sliced, green and white parts separated
Marinade
1 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs sesame oil
¼ cup rice wine
1 egg, beaten
½ tsp salt
Sauce
2 Tbs soy sauce
½ cup rice wine
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 cup chicken broth

Instructions:

Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, wine, egg and salt and pour it into a large zipper bag. Add the chicken to the bag, squeeze out the air, and zip the bag closed. Marinate the chicken for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.
In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, wine, balsamic vinegar, sugar and broth.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, pat it dry with paper towels and discard the marinade. Set up your mise-en-place with the peanut oil, chiles, garlic, ginger, pepper, bell pepper, the white part of the scallions, the marinated chicken, and the corn starch slurry, in that order.

Heat the peanut oil to smoking in a wok over high heat and swirl to coat the sides. Add the chilies and quickly stir-fry them until they begin to darken. Add the garlic, ginger and pepper and continue to stir-fry to infuse the oil. Add the bell pepper to the wok, then add the chicken and stir-fry it until browned. Add the sauce and bring it to a boil. Add the cornstarch slurry to the sauce and stir until thickened, reduce the heat to low, add the white part of the scallions and simmer for 10 minutes.

Place the Kung Pao chicken in a serving bowl and garnish with the peanuts and the green part of the scallions.


* You may substitute beef or pork tenderloin for the chicken
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